Essay About World War I
When World War I broke out across Europe in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the United States would remain neutral, and many Americans supported this policy of nonintervention. The U.S. was home to a number of immigrants from countries at war.
However, public opinion about neutrality started to change after the sinking of the British ocean liner Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915; almost 2,000 people perished, including 128 Americans. The incident strained diplomatic relations between Washington and Berlin and helped turn public opinion against Germany. President Wilson demanded that the Germans stop unannounced submarine warfare; however, he didn’t believe the U.S. should take military action against Germany. Some Americans disagreed with this nonintervention policy, including former president Theodore Roosevelt, who criticized Wilson and advocated for going to war. Roosevelt promoted the Preparedness Movement, whose aim was to persuade the nation it must get ready for war.
The US entry into World War I is often regarded as the end of what was called the Progressive Movement — the years since 1901 that had seen great reform-minded activism embraced by the national government. In this interpretation, America joining the war amounted to nothing less than the betrayal of all progressive impulses and an abject surrender to the type of uncivilized militarism many progressives bitterly opposed and for which they blamed the war in the first place. Wilson, campaigning for reelection in 1916 and desperately wanting progressive support, acquiesced in allowing “He kept us out of war” to be one of his campaign slogans.
January 1917, the British intercepted and deciphered an encrypted message from Germany to Mexico, known as the Zimmerman telegram. In this telegram, an alliance was proposed between Germany and Mexico if the US decided to join the Allies in the war. If this were to happen, Germany would help Mexico in regaining territory that was lost during the Mexican-American war. Also, Germany wanted Mexico to help get Japan on their side. The British gave President Wilson the Zimmerman telegram on February 24, and on March 1 the U.S. press reported on its existence. The American public was outraged by the news of the Zimmerman telegram and it, along with Germany’s resumption of submarine attacks, helped lead to the U.S. to join the war. The U.S. officially entered the conflict on April 6, 1917.